Imagine finding the perfect piece of remote land to build your off grid home on.
Then find out it’s priced all wrong!
So, you’ve just found several acres of thick pines, maples trees, ferns and wildlife. All with its own private lane directly off of a seldom travelled gravel road.
This was exactly what our property was like. Plus, it had eighty feet of freshwater lakefront that faces exactly south (perfect for solar) and a nearby steam that burbled in the background.
It’s exactly the plot of land we’d been looking for and we won’t waste a second to put some money down to secure it before anyone else can.
This is the lakeside view.
We took several photos of the property, trees and lake to show our daughter back home.
We were giddy in the car as we drove home to call our realestate agent to put in an offer.
Nothing was going to stop us from snapping up this little slice of heaven to build our off grid home on.
Or was it?
Just when we thought we snagged the piece of land we wanted, for a price we thought was outstanding, our real estate agent Melanie called us to say
Sorry guys, but the land was priced incorrectly online.
They were asking $19,900 for 3.5 acres of waterfront property and it was actually “supposed” to be advertised for $39,900!
We did think it strange that each of the adjacent properties were priced at $39,000 and all the smaller blocks of land that didn’t have water access were priced at $19,900.
That’s our property outlined in the green below.
Our hearts sank immediately.
That extra $20k would pay for the entire cabin and then some.
In fact, our building materials cost came to a grand total of $12,681.93 which you can download if you like.
We asked our realestate agent to do some digging and also contacted an amazing lawyer friend that had helped us in the past, when we purchased our on grid home.
We got some news that completely changed everything!
Here we are parked at the Land For Sale sign on our property.
Turns out that because we had put money down to hold the property, based on the “LISTED PRICE”, there was nothing the selling agent was able to do but honour the blunder and offer us the land for the advertised price.
However, if at any point we decided not to purchase the property, if the financing fell through, or we didn’t meet the initial payment deadline the price would automatically increase to $39,900.
There’s something inexplicably amazing about wandering around your own piece of the planet and exploring places people have never been before.
Especially, knowing you’re about to put down some off the grid roots and make this place your very own for generations to come.
Although we’ve been out to our property several times to pick the best spot to build our cabin, we’ve probably seen just 5%-10% of the total 3.5 acres we now owned.
3.5 acres really doesn’t look like much on Google Earth. Once you’re out there wandering through the woods it gets real big real fast.
I’ll discuss some other online tools below that can help find off grid land. Some tools can show you the best solar exposure angles to take advantage of the sun in that particular location.
Let’s take a look at the property we’ve secured and exactly why we wanted it.
We decided there were several things we wanted and some we didn’t for the land we were going to purchase.
We made up a list before we started looking around in order to keep us on track and away from properties that quickly didn’t meet our requirements.
TIP: It’s a good idea to create a list of the things you do and don’t want for your off grid property.
If you’re going to be building a home there, even if it’s a weekend getaway, you’ll probably have it for decades to come. Not to mention that you’re potentially investing tens of thousands on your off grid land/build and you want to make certain you’ve got the land that works best for your particular needs.
Here’s our off grid land “must haves” list.
- There had to be access to a lake
- The size had to be at least 3 acres
- We wanted no adjacent neighbors
- An existing access road would be a bonus
- The price had to be right (more about that below)
- Should be less than an hour drive from our on grid home
- Good southern exposure and property alignment for solar panels
- We would like to have waterfront property with a view of that lake
- We wanted plenty of trees for privacy, wind protection and firewood
The Price: We had a recent lump sum of money available to make our off grid adventures happen sooner than later.
If you weren’t aware of our story, I had just been medically released from the military due to thyroid cancer. Part of the reason we wanted to go off grid was to put some distance between our family and the cancer treatment center.
To make a very long story short, the military accepted 100% responsibility for my cancer and with my release from the Forces came a monetary settlement.
We used that money to buy the land, purchase our building materials, an ATV to plow the roads in winter, our solar system and lastly most of the amenities we have inside the cabin.
Here are a couple extra items you may want to include on your list when shopping for land.
- Would you ever want to drill a well?
- Test the cellular reception in that area
- What is the ground like below the overburden?
- Do you want to utilize natural building materials?
- Decide if you would ever want to have power put in
- Always walk the land before you get your heart set on it
- Talk to people that live nearby and ask them about the area
- Don’t always trust the satellite view from Google Earth or Bing
- Know the local building codes, zoning, covenants, ordinances and HOAs
- Have an understanding of the local climate (wind, sun, rain, humidity, snow)
Your ideal off grid land may well be quite different from the next person, but if you’re going to be generating your own power, you’ll want plenty of sun or wind.
If you want rooftop solar like we have, you’ll want the optimum tilt angle for your solar panels. That can depend on your roof style and particular latitude.
You can use Google Earth to find your Latitude
In the US you might use something like www.City-Data.com to find areas which are better suited for power generation. They have in-depth information at a glance an offer tons of demographic, geographic, and climatological options when searching for locations. They also have small topography maps, tables, maps, charts and graphs with more information than you could ever possibly use.
Here’s an example of the average annual climate in Williams, Arizona
We live in some pretty extraordinary times with the internet right at our fingertips for most of the day.
If you’ve got a modern smartphone there isn’t’ much you can’t do with it when it comes to finding, buying and surveying land.
Purchasing land even just 10 years ago was a whole different ball game than it is today.
I’m sure it will have advanced even further by the time I’m done writing this.
With the use of the internet, satellite imagery, cellular GPS and Real Estate phone apps it’s easier than ever to find the perfect off grid land.
You might even make an offer right there while you’re standing on it!
One such app for the iPhone is Whitetail Properties.
Their app store description…
Whether you’re a first time buyer or an experienced investor, you’ve come to the best place on the planet to find hunting, farm and ranch land for sale.
We found our property using a real estate website called ViewPoint.
ViewPoint offers detailed, up-to-date information on approximately 13K listings and 650K properties here in Nova Scotia.
It can show you your exact position (using your phone’s GPS) while walking the property. This was essential for finding our property markers. I can’t imagine doing this using a compass and a measuring tape or paying a land surveyor A LOT of money to find your land markers for you.
It was fast and easy to locate all the property pins. However, getting from pin to pin through a densely packed forest was a whole other story!
Best of all this website is free to access and most cell phones today have some kind of GPS.
You can easily do a Google search for “how to find land for sale in ____”
Google Earth is one of the on-line tools we used to investigate our property to get a real bird’s eye view before we even stepped foot on it.
There’s also Bing Maps which has satellite imagery as well.
One of the largest online sites for finding rural land for sale in the US is www.Land.com
Aerial Camera Drones
Some folks we’ve seen use a small drone to survey the properties adjacent to us.
Thankfully the land on either side isn’t suitable for living (it’s all marshy) and we’re still are neighbour free.
Real Estate Agent
Of course you can always contact your favourite real estate agent and ask them to do a search specifically for land that meets your criteria.
Some off the properties we came across already had a home on it but wasn’t listed as a property.
Instead these were listed as “Land with as is building” because the home wasn’t built to code and/or not inspected during its construction. Often times the land of the real value and these buildings can simply be tore down and used for reclaimed lumber for a garage, workshop or firewood.
For example, this picturesque piece of land is a total of 10.1 acres. It has an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean, roadside access (but you can build further back it you like) and is along the world famous Cabot Trail in Cape Breton!
Now you know exactly why we purchased the land that we did and how we did it.
We covered the online tools (Google Earth, iPhone GPS, BING) and websites (ViewPoint).
As well as the people (real estate agent and lawyer) that helped us secure our land.
While we got away with an incredible $20K savings we know not everyone will have the same luck we did.
However, you might save more! You never know.
We’d LOVE to hear from you in the comments below. Let us know about your off grid land buying adventure.
Maybe you inherited land from a family member? Perhaps you’re just starting your search for the perfect piece of property right now?
Let us know and happy land hunting.
And for all our Pinterest fans we’ve got your pin ready to go!